The controversial "NGO" or "Transparency" bill calling for the exposure of the foreign interests behind operating in Israel is now one step closer to being adopted as law.
The bill, promoted by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), has passed in the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee and will be submitted for second and third readings in the Knesset.
The proposed law stipulates that any organization receiving over half of its funding from foreign countries would need to disclose this fact on every official document. Moreover, a declaration to this effect would have to be prominently displayed on any advertisement on billboards, television, and newspapers; on the organizations' website; in any request or petition sent to a public official; and on any report on the organization published for public consumption.
In addition, any representative of such an organization participating in a Knesset committee meeting would have to disclose the fact that the majority of the funding comes from foreign sources to the chairman of the committee either before or during the meeting. If the representative is asked by any MK where the organization's funding comes from, he would have to reveal the sources. The names of the countries funding every NGO would be listed on a Justice Ministry website dealing with the regulation of voluntary associations.
Failure to comply with any of the stipulations would be met with a fine of up to 29,000 NIS.
These provisions are meant to ensure that any organization working for foreign interests will be clearly recognized as one by the public. This way outright restrictions on free speech and freedom to lobby are avoided, while ensuring transparency.
Shaked commented: "The Transparency Bill will expose the fact of the funding of NGOs by foreign governments. Countries must understand that any expression of a position or opinion regarding Israel's policies must go through standard diplomatic channels. This kind of foreign interference in the country's internal dealings has no equivalent anywhere else in the world and no democratic government would permit it. We too will no longer tolerate blatant meddling without the exposure of the foreign sources of funding, and them being made known to the public and its elected representatives."